BULLETIN: 36th Dist. Candidates’ Forum–a Surprise Amidst the Yawns

August 17, 2010

CENTREVILLE– Candidates for the three state Delegate seats and lone state Senate seat at stake in this year’s elections fielded questions from the audience here  Tuesday night at a League of Women Voters forum, with the surprise of the evening the strong performance by Steven Mumford, a first-time candidate from Chestertown seeking the Democratic nomination for Senate.

   Mumford, with an eclectic background that includes work as a professional dancer and membership in the Screen Actors Guild, was knowledgable about local Kent and Queen Anne’s County issues, including the “FASTC” project that would have brought a federal State Department security training center to a large Queen Anne’s County farm. The project was initially welcomed by local officials but they backpedaled after pressure brought by local anti-growth groups and the federal government withdrew the proposal.

   Mumford said that while the 400 or so jobs the facility would have brought to Queen Anne’s were “lost” to that county, the project might still be salvaged and located in Kent or Caroline counties in the 36th District. He said he had talked with local economic development officials who were working with some local farmers interested in offering their property for the facility. “It’s not a dead issue yet,” he said.

   His opponent in the Democratic primary, Robert Alt, the former mayor of Elkton, admitted he was clueless about FASTC: ” I don’t know much about this issue but I’ll try to learn more,” he said.

   Mumford also addressed problems with the Kent County recycling program and Bay Bridge-related traffic problems on Kent Island.

   The forum,  sponsored by the Kent and Queen Anne’s chapters of the League, had Democratic candidates appearing on one panel and Republicans on a separate panel. In addition to Mumford and Alt, Democrat William Manlove, of Cecil County, a candidate for Delegate in Dist. 36, also participated. The lone no-showDemocratic candidate was Arthur Hock, candidate for the Kent County Delegate seat in the district.

   Republicans attending were incumbent Sen. E.J. Pipkin; Del. Richard Sossi, incumbent Delegate from Queen Anne’s County and his GOP primary opponent, Stephen  S. Hershey; Jay Jacobs of Rock Hall, running for the Kent County Delegate seat; and incumbent Del. Michael Smigiel of Cecil County. Donald Alcorn, who is opposing Pipkin in the GOP primary, did not appear.

(The Cecil Times will file a complete report on the event later.)

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BULLETIN: Re-Elect Signs for Sen. Pipkin, Del. Smigiel Crop Up Overnight

June 29, 2010

BULLETIN:

    Like some new agricultural crop or weed that grows exponentially in a matter of hours, signs touting the re-election of Sen. E. J. Pipkin (R-36) and his cohort, Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36) cropped up overnight throughout southern Cecil County, seeming to answer the question: “what will E.J. do?”

   Pipkin has been toying with the statewide press, refusing to downplay rumors that he was considering a statewide run for Comptroller against incumbent Democrat Peter Franchot.  Pipkin is believed to have commissioned a poll to assess his chances against Franchot, who has amassed an impressive campaign warchest and is very popular in his home area of the populous Montgomery County. While the poll results have not been disclosed, the obvious calculus of a late date entry into the Comptroller race indicates that 2010 is not Pipkin’s time for a statewide run.

   Pipkin would have had to give up a safe Senate seat for an uncertain  statewide run against a popular incumbent.  But just by cooling his heels for another four years, Pipkin would have an excellent shot at the Comptroller slot in 2014, when Franchot is expected to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

   Pipkin’s refusal to disclose his plans has kept many down-ticket Republicans in limbo.   Del. Richard Sossi, R-36, has said he would run for the Senate seat if Pipkin vacated it. But Sossi filed for re-election to his Delegate seat recently, even though he said he had no idea what Pipkin would do. Sossi told the Cecil Times that he was prepared to withdraw from the House race and run for Senate if Pipkin gave up the seat.

   Smigiel, who has been joined at the signpost with Pipkin, was known to be interested in the Senate seat and a Pipkin statewide run could have set up a Sossi-Smigiel primary battle for the 36th District Senate seat.  Sossi is very popular in the District and would be the odds-on favorite to clobber Smigiel in a GOP primary.

     But now that the “say it with signs” word is out, Sossi seems to be comfortably back in re-election mode. No Democrat has surfaced so far to run against him.

      Smigiel, who failed to carry his home base of Cecil County and also lost in Kent County in 2006, will face well-known Democrat William Manlove (Bill Manlove), who has filed for the delegate seat. Manlove is the former president of the Cecil County Commissioners, a farmer, and environmentalist.

UPDATE: The Cecil Times interviewed Del. Richard Sossi, R-36, from Queen Anne’s County, and he confirmed  Tuesday that he was advised over the weekend by Pipkin that he would seek re-election to his state Senate seat.  (Del. Sossi has been forging an independent course from Pipkin-Smigiel.) Sossi said he was unaware that the Pipkin-Smigel team had put up joint campaign signs in the district. He said he planned to erect his own campaign signs independently.

NEWS UPDATE: State election board records posted online June 30 show that Smigiel filed his candidacy papers for re-election as a Delegate on Tuesday, June 29. However, the database did not reflect a filing by Pipkin.

NEW NEWS UPDATE:  Updated State Board of Election records show that E.J. Pipkin filed for re-election to his state Senate Seat late in the day on 6/30/10.  LET THE GAMES BEGIN!


Del. Richard Sossi Files for Re-Election–But Hedges Bets Against Pipkin Moves

June 9, 2010

   Del. Richard Sossi, a Queen Anne’s County Republican, has filed for re-election to his 36th District House of Delegates seat– but that doesn’t mean he has a magic divining rod to determine the intentions of State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who may run for re-election but then again might run for Comptroller and vacate his Senate seat.

   For months, Sossi has, in effect, been running for both his old House seat and for the 36th District Senate seat, raising a substantial campaign warchest that could be used for a race for either post. On Tuesday, June 8, Sossi filed for re-election to his House seat, according to state Elections Board records. Those records also show that Pipkin had not filed for re-election or any other state elected position.

   You wouldn’t want to play poker with Sossi, who is continuing to hedge his bets. “Yes, I filed for re-election,” Sossi told The Cecil Times. “But I also picked up another application to run for Senate and an application to withdraw” from the House campaign, he said with a chuckle.  The filing deadline is less than a month away, and Sossi could still file for the Senate seat if Pipkin decides to vacate it, and then withdraw his House seat candidacy.

   Sossi said he called Pipkin’s office as a courtesy to inform the senator of Sossi’s intentions to file for re-election. But Sossi still has had no word from Pipkin on just what he plans to do.  “In fairness, I don’t think he really knows in his own mind yet what he is going to do,” Sossi said of Pipkin.

    Sossi said he felt it was “the fair thing to do” to send a signal to other Republicans who might be interested in his own seat. Foremost among them is Diana Waterman, vice chair of the Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee, who has been on pins and needles waiting for the trickle-down decision-making from on high. Sossi said he called Waterman to inform her of his filing for re-election, and she agreed not to run against him, but would be interested in running if Sossi shifts his focus to the Senate seat.   So far, no Democratic candidate has come forward to run for the seat.

All the mixed signals and silence from Pipkin has roiled some local Republicans– and confounded Democrats– as many potential candidates are left to play a waiting game to see what Pipkin will do. As the Cecil Times reported last fall, https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/e-j-pipkin-campaigning-in-cecil-but-for-what-job/ Pipkin has been periodically campaigning with old ‘re-elect” signs and tee shirts implying he would run for his Senate seat. But then his aides insist no decision has been made and that other possible races are still on the table.

    Pipkin appears to be focusing on the state Comptroller position as an alternative to another four years in the state Senate. He is believed to have commissioned a poll to test the waters but the results have not been disclosed. If he does get into the race against incumbent Democrat Peter Franchot, Pipkin would first have to win the Republican primary, in which two others have already filed: William H. Campbell, a political newcomer but an experienced financial manager and former Chief Financial Officer of Amtrak; and a young student from Baltimore County, Brendan Madigan.

    Franchot has been campaigning for re-election virtually from the day he won the post four years ago. He has a current cash-on-hand campaign fund balance of $513,413, according to a report filed in mid-January with the state Board of Elections.  For anyone but Pipkin, that much money in the bank would be a deterrant. But Pipkin , a former junk bond trader in New York, has a long history of self-financing his campaigns and given his past track record could match or even double that amount with his own checkbook.

  All the “what will Pipkin do” speculation hasn’t really changed Sossi’s campaigning. The House and Senate districts are the same– covering all of Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s County and part of Caroline– and Sossi is omni-present throughout the district even in non-election years. He is well ahead of his past fund-raising track record, as the Cecil Times reported in January here:  https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/del-richard-sossi-fundraising-success-but-for-which-seat/

  Regardless of what seat he eventually REALLY runs for, Sossi is feeling good about this election season. “It’s going to be a Republican year,” he said, noting the top-of-the-ticket governor’s race by Republican Robert Ehrlich against incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley should bring out a strong GOP vote that will flow down to lower-ticket GOP races such as his own.

 Sossi was the top vote-getter of all three winning Delegates in the 36th in the last election. Del. Mary Roe Walkup, R,  who placed second in the vote tally last time, has announced she will not seek re-election this year to her Kent County-based seat. Del. Michael Smigiel, R,  of Cecil County, was in last place and did not carry his home county. (The 36th District elects three “resident delegates,” one each from Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, but voters in all those counties, plus part of Caroline County, vote for candidates from their own and the other counties.)

    Early voting is a new wrinkle in the campaign this year and Sossi said it is unclear what impact it will have on the 36th contests. He said some estimates project early ballots could amount to about 20 percent of the total votes cast. “It is what it is,” he said, adding that it will make it harder for candidates to reach out to voters in the final days of the campaign.